Pierce Brosnan is wearing his dark glasses this morning. Indoors. Around his neck is a Hermes ascot that perfectly matches the hazy blue of his eyes. Around his wrist is a gold link bracelet. There are triplet gold bands on his pinky finger, too, as well as a chunky gold wedding band. His hair curls over the back of his collar and is swept back for a sort of stylized disheveled look.
In a word, he looks nothing like his wildly popular character, Remington Steele, the pin-striped, lovable NBC detective, who has catapulted Brosnan, at 32, into a matinee idol of yuppie America, and given him the patent on a new genre of male sex symbol.
"Thank Gawd . . . I am not like him!" he blurts out in that delicious Irish accent, smiling the smile that has melted millions.
"No, no, no, I am not Remington Steele. He is very sure of himself, I'm not that much of an extrovert. And I am not as silly as the character. I am much more practical . . . I wouldn't say I'm more macho but I can handle myself. I mean, I know karate. I think we have made him a bit too champagne and cocktails, if you know what I mean. I mean, I don't want to run around looking like him all the time, do I?"
He could do worse. "Remington Steele" has become the series for people who don't like to admit they watch TV, and Brosnan, the hunk with brains. Some call him the Cary Grant of the '80s and he's being mentioned as a natural to succeed Roger Moore as James Bond. "It would be another typecast," he says. "I think I'd put the man in the coffin then . . . just doing a harder edged Remington Steele. But yes, yes, I would do it." In fact, his wife, Cassandra Harris, had a part in "For Your Eyes Only."
Entering its fourth season, and steadily climbing in the ratings, "Remington Steele" seems to have been designed for the Ireland-born Brosnan, although the top billing goes to Stephanie Zimbalist as Laura Holt, owner of the detective firm. Tonight, the last show of the season (Channel 4 at 10) is a cliffhanger and there's no clue as to whether Steele will be back for next season.
"Yes, we are coincidentally in the midst of contract negotiations," he smiles from the upper reaches of the Washington Hilton, where he stayed this weekend while in town for the American Cancer Society Ball.
Initially, Brosnan was hired in a supporting role, but through the strength and charm of his character, he has managed to evolve as the focus of the show (to Zimbalist's dismay), and a male ideal: sexy but not pushy, smart but sensitive, bumbling but strong.
Warm him up a bit, and there's Remington in the flesh, huggable, inviting, funny and yes, ooohh so vulnerable. Give him a chance to explain, and there's no way he could be the culprit causing the well-publicized friction with his leading lady. Their relationship -- which never seems to quite jell on the show either -- is wonderful fodder for the beauty parlor magazines.
"I am not out to steal the show, but the show is Remington Steele," he says. "Without him there is no show. There's not much I can do [about the way she feels]. She's got a lot to learn. I finally had to sit her down because I felt this friction. She's worried that she's not funny enough. Well, we can't all be that funny. I don't think I'm that funny. I go on instinct."
He is read part of an interview with Zimbalist in which she says she goes "ouch" when reviews of Brosnan go off the charts.
"Well, she goes ouch too much about it, though. She's threatened. Also, Stephanie has had a long track record of movies of the week. Her father being Efrem -- she's very close to Daddy. She's used to having a lot of attention and when that doesn't happen there is no backup system. That's difficult. I have a backup system of being very happily married, of having a wonderful wife and children. And so, should it all swing around tomorrow, I don't care really. I can go on. I have a certain strength."
Is he really all this confident?
"I have to find this confidence," he says. "You have to work on it. If you're that confident, you don't have any yielding. Maybe you just caught me on a day when I have confidence. I'm not that confident. I get knocked easily. I go ouch, too."
Brosnan's road to success has not been a cushy one. Born in County Meath, Ireland, he was an infant when his father left his mother. Shortly after, his mother moved to London to study nursing, leaving him to shuttle between various relatives' homes.
"She left to make a life for me, I guess -- it was very hard for her," he says. "I tried to analyze this stage in life where I am now, how it came about. It staggers me. I have done pretty well without an awful lot of help . . . My wife thinks my life is somewhat incredible."
His mother came back to Ireland twice a year until she moved him to London when he was 11.
"I met my father for the first time last year after 31 years," he says. "It was kind of bland, really. I had run the scenario so my times in my head, then you go to meet this person, he walks in the door, and he's a stranger. When we went to say goodbye, there was an emotional twinge in the sense that I had a sadness for him, sadness for these two characters, father and son. And there was the actor in me standing outside the situation looking at it thinking how I would play the scene. One of those numbers."
He started acting 10 years ago, and got his first break when he starred as Rory Manion in the mini-series "The Manions of America." But it wasn't until "Remington Steele" that he started to evolve into somewhat of a movie magazine figure.
"I try not to think about it too much," he says. "It gets in the way of the job. Is it flattering? It gets a little tough at times. I still can't get used to people asking for an autograph. They give me phone numbers if I'm with my family. They'll shout across the street. If you're shopping at Saks, they find you. Some days it's really just wonderful, so good for the ego, for everything. Other days you just want to trundle along with life.
"I have a really lovely wife and it gets rough on her," he says. "It's tough on her because one is being written about as a sex symbol or hunk-of-the-month or any of the above."
For his and Remington Steele's future, Brosnan says he'd like to work on changing the well-scrubbed image a little. For one, his relationship with Laura might be better developed. "But I doubt they will ever get together, because that will be the end of the show," he says. "They have brought them together a bit more. At one time all they were doing is kissing and necking, sucking face. You can only do that for so long before you get down to some good old sex."
For his own image building, Brosnan has just finished producing a made-for-television movie he will also star in for CBS, about a cowboy-type figure. And Remington Steele may even get a little tougher. He never seems to get dirty.
"Yes, I know what you mean. For this season I like to take some of that away to see the regular guy," says Brosnan. "When I see Clint Eastwood movies, I come out thinking I'm Clint Eastwood," he says smiling that killer smile again. "I think when [my new film] 'Nomad Sees the Light of Day' comes out, the perception of me will change . . . I get dirty in that . . . And I think my whole motivation for the next year will be to get my hair messed up."